Is the Arc’teryx Gamma SL Hybrid Hoody the best Summer climbing softshell? Kev Avery finds out….
Arc’teryx say the Gamma SL Hybrid Hoody is:
“A lightweight hoody designed for weight-conscious alpine specialists moving quickly over mixed terrain. A hybrid of a durable, weather-resistant fabric in high-wear areas and a lightweight, quick drying, breathable fabric in the main body that accentuates heat and moisture control with high weather protection.”
The Gamma SL Hybrid is a fully featured lightweight softshell jacket, designed for fast moving pursuits in a mixture of weather conditions. It is not however, a waterproof jacket!
I have used the Gamma SL Hybrid Hoody for a number of different activities: Ice and mixed climbing in the Alps in November, ski touring in Spring, Summer rock climbing, scrambling and also Scottish winter climbing on days when the weather has been reasonably moisture free. It is a very versatile softshell jacket and it is also very well featured.
As you’d expect from Arc’teryx, the cut is superb, almost tailored in fact. This means that there is only fabric where you need it, not where you don’t. The whole garment is anatomicaly shaped. The sleeves are articulated, and don’t pull or cause the hem to ride up when you are climbing and have your hands above your head. This is also aided by the underarm gussets. Cuffs are secured by simple and effective Velcro cinch tabs and these are easy to operate, even whilst wearing gloves.
The jacket isn’t too long, sitting just above the hip so it works well with a climbing harness. The harness hemlock feature (and the excellent cut mentioned earlier) ensures that the Gamma doesn’t ride up when climbing and stays put below your harness. The hem can be easily adjusted using glove friendly hem drawcords.
The hood on the Gamma SL Hybrid Hoody is simply awesome. It gives amazing head coverage without compromising visibility and is easy to adjust via adjustable drawcords, even whilst wearing gloves. It works perfectly over a climbing helmet and doesn’t feel your neck is being compressed when you put it up.
The Gamma has a laminated chest pocket and 2 laminated handwarmer pockets, all with glove friendly tabs. It doesn’t have any internal pockets. None of the pockets interfere with a harness although if the hand pockets are full then they do tend to feel like they’re impeding your waist belt a little. If this was an out and out climbing jacket then I think Arc’teryx could happily dispense with the 2 handwarmer pockets. As more of an all-round mountain piece though, they work fine.
The jacket closes via a full length Vislon zip with windguard and laminated soft touch chin guard. The zip is sturdy and smooth to use and the cord zipper tab works well with gloves despite being rather thin.
The fabrics used on the Gamma SL are where the Hybrid part of the name comes into play. Basically Arc’teryx construct the garment out of 2 different fabrics. Both fabrics stretch to aid with ease of movement and both are treated with a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) finish to help moisture bead away from the surface and not soak in. Neither fabric is waterproof or 100% windproof but they will protect from snow, light showers and all but the harshest of wind. In fact in terms of windproofness, it can’t be far off 100%. A heavier (actually very light though!), tougher fabric called Fortius 1.0 is used on the high wear areas of the arms, shoulders, upper back and lower back. The rest of the jacket is made from a slightly lighter Terratex fabric which is very breathable and quick drying. This gives a comfortable piece of clothing suited to fast moving activities. The only downside of the lighter fabric is that it is limited by its durability and I have managed to put a couple of holes in mine whilst mixed climbing on Chamonix granite.
So all in all the Arc’teryx Gamma SL Hybrid Hoody is a superb piece of softshell clothing which is deal for a wide range of fast moving mountain pursuits from ski touring to mixed climbing to Summer alpine classics. It is best suited for use in Spring, Summer and Autumn as I don’t think it would provide sufficient protection for full on winter conditions, particularly in the UK, (I’d go for a Gamma MX Hoody or Venta MX Hoody instead) but a lot of that would be dictated by weather on the day. I particularly like the hood and harness hemlock feature. Watch out for ice screws and sharp rocks on the lighter body fabric. All in all another great piece of kit.
To find out more and where to buy one, visit the Arc’teryx website.